Loving Hour to Hour

Call to Worship Acts 2:42-44, 47a                 

The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. (2011 © Common English Bible)
Here we are to worship! Here we are to praise!           

Invocation 

Sacred Love, move us in this hour that we might demonstrate your goodness and love in our hour to hour actions this week. Amen.

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Posted in Acts, Acts 2, Acts 2:42-44, 47a, Call to Worship, Invocation, New Testament

Saturate Us With Your Presence

Call to Worship Psalm 133                                

Look at how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one!
It is like expensive oil poured over the head, running down onto the beard—Aaron’s beard!—which extended over the collar of his robes.

It is like the dew on Mount Hermon streaming down onto the mountains of Zion, because it is there that the Lord has commanded the blessing: everlasting life. (2011 © Common English Bible)
Together, let us worship!

Invocation

Like Aaron’s anointing, like the oil running down onto his beard, saturate us with your presence. Extend over our collars, into our hearts and to our fingers and  toes that we might be motivated to be your hands and feet when we leave here today. Amen.

Posted in Call to Worship, Eastertide, Invocation, Old Testament, Psalm 133, Psalms

The Wind at Our Backs

The wind at our backs, we entered Jerusalem.
Only to watch him die on the cross.

It spiraled so quickly. Trial. Torture. Crucifixion. Death.
But on the third day the breath of God blew new life into our futures.

Forty days with the risen Jesus.
Before he ascended, Jesus reminded us that the Spirit will come.

It was on Pentecost.
It was on Pentecost when the wind, breathed into each and everyone of us.

Let us pray:
Sacred breath, move through this room. Unlock a song within your people. Breathe into us your hopes and dreams for a world filled with justice, love, and peace. Amen.

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Posted in Acts, Acts 2, Acts 2:1-15, Acts 2:1-4, Call to Worship, Eastertide, Invocation, New Testament, Pentecost

Esther & Easter

Christ Is Risen!
Christ Is Risen, Indeed!

Nearly five-hundred years before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the exiled Jewish people looked for an earthly leader for their salvation from genocide.
In grief & despair, the Jewish people yearned for a future filled with hope.

Queen Vashti led the way, embracing the image of God within. Mordecai refused to deny God, defying the powerful and honoring his faith.
And then a young Esther rose to the challenge, risking all for her people.

Though an imperfect salvation, the Jewish people in the empire survived evil.
Because Esther acted in “just such a time as this.”

Through the days of hope for a new King David, to a last supper with our rabbi Jesus, to the shock of Good Friday we have journeyed.
Our hope died on the cross at the hands of the powerful Roman empire.

We yearn for a sign, an affirmation that evil will not have the final say in our world. We crave hope.
Early on Sunday, the women went to the tomb. 

The tomb was empty! The expansive love of God cannot be defeated. God’s love and justice overcomes evil and even death.
In just such a time as this,
Esther risked all for love of neighbor.

In just such a time as this, Christ arose!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! HALLELUJAH

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Posted in Call to Worship, Days of the Church, Easter, Esther, Esther 4:1-17, Esther 4:14-17, Luke, Luke 24, Luke 24:1-12, New Testament, Old Testament

Despite Rain & Risk

Faithful, Mordecai reveals his trust in God.
Rain continues falling,
thunder threatens.

Falling into despair he dons the sackcloth of grief.
Thunderous evil persists,
death will surely follow.

Esther’s life at risk, she chooses the most loving action in “just such a time as this.”
She chooses love and justice and hope.

Let us pray,
Mystical one, touch our hearts as you did with Mordecai and Esther. Bolster our resolve and point the way. Perhaps, we too have come to this crossroad, for “just such a time as this.” Amen.

Let us worship the One who loves
in times like then and times like now.

Tasting grief, tasting joy, with hesitancy and resolve we are here to worship God.

Posted in Call to Worship, Esther, Esther 4, Esther 4:1-17, Esther 4:14, Invocation, Lent, Lent 3, Old Testament

Come & Worship in Just Such a Time as This

Come and worship!
How can we worship in “such a time as this”? 

Yes, the world feels hopeless but come and worship!
Why worship in “such a time as this”?

Yes, human kindred don’t listen to one another. Friends worry about winning at the expense of joy, but come and worship!
Who is there to worship in “such a time as this”?

Do not let the world steal your joy! Turn to the divine embedded in creation and creator especially now.
Where is the joy in “such a time as this”?

Look around you. God has not left you. God is present in the struggle and in the heartache. God is present in neighbor, enemy, and family. God calls most emphatically in “just such a time as this!”
But it’s hard to perceive!

Come and worship anyway!
We are here. We have come to worship in “just such a time as this!”

Posted in Call to Worship, Esther, Esther 2, Esther 2:5, Esther 2:5, 7-10, 16-17, 20-23, Esther 3, Esther 3:1-6, Lent, Lent 2, Old Testament, Seasons of the Church

Faith in “Just Such a Time As This”

We were tough on media consumption 

Never thought about keeping from Bible

***

After deposing Vashti, Ahasuerus gets lonely.

  • contestants go thru a demeaning pageant—even by ancient standards
  • Mordecai
    • cousin who raised Esther
    • works in palace
    • sees that Esther she gets into contest
  • The Bachelor: Persia,
    • rated M for mature audiences
    • maybe X
  • This would not be media consumption I’d allow my grandkids

***

Throughout the process, Esther keeps faith & ethnicity from others

  • Mordecai told her not to tell
  • Probably for her safety
  • Likely for her overall well being
  • It enabled her to become queen

***

Next…

Mordecai discovers a plot against king

  • he encourages Esther to tell the king
  • she does so in his name

Guess what happens?

The plotters are brutally killed

  • more media I wouldn’t allow my kids

Mordecai gets

  • no promotion
  • no recognition

And Haman enters the story.

Haman is promoted

  • bad guy
  • during current day Purim services, traditional to make noise when name mentioned

Tradition says this is done so that his evil name is never heard again and because it is the Jews’ responsibility to “make noise,” to speak up when they see evil. (JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, ¶ 438)

King ordered all to bow down to Haman

  • Everyone but Mordecai obeyed
  • other servants pestered him
    • “because I’m a Jew”
    • Can bow only for God

Haman was ticked

  • So annoyed that punishing Mordecai was not enough
    • Haman plots to have the king order all Jews killed
  • like Vashti’s punishment not enough to punish her
    • all women ordered to obey
  • like blaming all Muslims for terrorism

[pause]

To summarize, Mordecai insists Esther not reveal her faith.

  • Mordecai reveals his faith
  • leads to death sentence for all Jews in empire
    • “Do as I say, not as I do!”

Mordecai didn’t know all Jews would be punished 

  • Still, risky to tell or he wouldn’t have stopped Esther

[pause]

Feels like in middle

  • just about right
  • Esther is a novella

If missed last week,

  • missed first couple episodes of 6
  • Just starting to get good
  • Not sure where it’s headed

***

But this is scripture.

  • novella is morality tale
  • sometimes facts stretched to make a point in literature
  • Bible no different

Berlin and Brettler suggest that “It stretches credibility to imagine that Esther could keep her ethnic identity a secret, but it is vital to the plot.”

***

So, what is the moral of this episode in our novella?

  • compare Mordecai & Esther with secrets
  • we can blend in with culture if we keep our faith secret
  • comes a point when we have to decide
  • Foreshadows

The time has not come for Esther to decide.

Mordecai had to decide in this chapter of our novella

  • forced by “just such a time as this” to claim his faith
    • or deny it
  • claim God
    • or deny God

Will it matter when the time comes for Esther?

  • don’t know
  • middle of story

***

What does this episode/chapter mean for us?

If we are faithful, we can’t hide it, not really

  • because markers of faith
    • not bowing for instance
    • or preventing a murder
    • the way we treat others
  • Too many practices of faith that differ from culture

We have markers to our faith, too

What are our markers?

  • As Christians?
  • As FCC Christians?

ELICIT RESPONSES

There are times when it’s appropriate to be silent.

  • personal safety
  • safety of others
  • when others are telling us their spiritual journeys
  • when our story would come off as judgmental
  • when it’s braggadocios

But like present day Jews, there comes a time to 

  • “make noise,” to speak up when they see evil. (JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, ¶ 438)

It can be hard to know when to speak out and when it’s not

  • (Mordecai today’s episode)
  • Pray
    • listen to the Holy Spirit
  • Read Bible
    • listen to the Holy Spirit
  • test with our kindred Christians
    • our own emotions can get us into trouble

Just as the time will come for Esther in our novella, it will comes for us

  • Just as it has in past
  • faithfulness ALWAYS takes risk

During Lenten season, listen.

What are we called to do in “just such a time as this”? Amen.

__

I delivered this sermon on March 12, 2017 at the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Albany, Oregon.

 

Posted in Esther, Esther 2, Esther 2:5, Esther 2:5, 7-10, 16-17, 20-23, Esther 3, Esther 3:1-6, Lent 2, Old Testament, Seasons of the Church, Sermon
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All materials by Tim Graves unless otherwise noted. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

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